Friday, October 21, 2011

Stalked by 'The Priest'

Author’s note: This is a follow up to a story I wrote for Mysterious Universe about a woman’s encounter with a bizarre, threatening man dressed as a priest. After the article appeared, I discovered this woman wasn’t the only person stalked by “The Priest.”

The stranger took Jared Thompson by surprise.

As the public train rumbled closer to Thompson’s home in San Francisco in April 2011, a male voice asked Thompson for the newspaper that sat next to him. Thompson looked up from his thoughts and saw the stranger.

He wished he hadn’t.

The man was dressed as a priest, but Thompson didn’t find that comforting.

“He was probably six feet tall,” Thompson, who stands 6’3”, said, “and he just felt wrong.”

The priest, balding with thin, “brittle” hair, stood before Thompson, his waxy, chapped complexion stained by a birthmark covering one side of his face.

“My gut reaction was that he was sick with something terminal,” Thompson said, “but then (the feeling) grew into something darker.”

As the man loomed over Thompson, terror grew in his chest.

“This guy was giving off the scariest vibes, and I am in no way sensitive to that sort of thing,” he said. “I thought it was weird that he was asking for the paper because at first glance I thought he was blind.”

The priest’s eyes were milky, but as Thompson studied the man, he knew the priest could see.

“His eyes were alert,” Thompson said. “He was tracking my movements visually.”

Thompson handed him the paper.

“When he reached to take it, the train lurched and he stumbled closer to me,” Thompson said. “I almost gagged. This man smelled. If you’ve ever had a rat die in your wall or cleaned up a mousetrap, it was the same kind of smell. It was sickening, sweet, rotting and oppressive.”

Thompson gagged at the smell, tears rimming his eyes. The priest took the paper and sat on the seat opposite him.

“But he was not reading the paper,” Thompson said. “He was staring at me with a huge grin on his face. In my entire life I have never felt the sick fear that I had when that priest was staring at me.”

Terror running through him, Thompson looked out the window, the city clicking past, and thought how much he wanted to see his wife waiting for him at home.

“The priest leaned over the aisle and said, ‘she wants to see you, too,’” Thompson said. “And then he gave me another awful smile. This was not friendly – it was horrible.”

Who was this man? Thompson wondered. A lunatic? Or something else?

“There was something about him that told me he had literally just heard what I was thinking,” Thompson said. “It’s not as if I was looking at a photo of my wife or texting her or something. I was just staring out the window, minding my own business.”

Thompson didn’t respond. He kept looking at the scenery speeding by, counting the seconds until he reached his stop.

“The train went for a few more stops and the whole time I was sweating, nervous and sick to my stomach,” he said. “I was so relieved when we came to my stop.”

Thompson shot up, grabbed his bag, and all but ran from the train.

“I turned around and saw that the priest was still on it when it pulled away,” he said. “I actually kept my eyes on the train until it was well past the station. As soon as I was standing outside in the fresh air, I began to feel better. I told myself it was just some creepy old man and that I was overreacting. Isn’t that what people always tell themselves?”

Thompson walked toward his car in the parking lot, relaxing more with each step. He climbed inside and pulled out of the lot, taking his eyes off the pavement for a moment to adjust his seat belt. When he turned his attention back to the road he slammed his foot onto the brake pedal.

“I saw a figure standing about 10 feet from my car, right in the center of the driveway,” he said. “It was the man from the train. Same priest robe. He waved at me.”

Thompson threw his car in reverse, spun its nose around and gunned toward the second exit.

“I have no clue how he got there,” Thompson said. “But I know for a fact that I wasn’t hallucinating. It was the same guy from the train. I would recognize him anywhere.”

Thompson hasn’t seen the “priest” again. He doesn’t talk about his experience. He hasn’t even told his wife.

“This guy left me rattled,” Thompson said. “If I think about him to this day I get a nervous creeping feeling inside of me. I haven’t the faintest idea what he is only that I don’t believe he is a human being.”

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters,” is available at Jason’s blog,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Memories of a Past Life in WWII

The book on past-life regression Dave Bercaw of West Fork, Ark., read in the 1980s was, by many contemporary accounts, unconventional. To arrive in a state in which to “remember” a life you may have once lived, it didn’t advocate undergoing the widely-accepted practice of hypnosis, it recommended suffering.

“I had read a book pooh-poohing the use of regression hypnosis in past life recall,” Bercaw said. “Instead, the author had recommended concentrating on the most negative emotion one could summon.”

Doctors and detectives trained in regression hypnosis had at various times tried to hypnotize Bercaw, and failed. So Bercaw tried the suggestion of this book*, concentrating on the first things to come to mind – sweat, thirst, and exhaustion.

Images began to race.

“I recalled events taking place in North Africa and Italy wherein I was a British infantryman during World War II,” he said. “The memories were vivid and graphic, even unto today, 20 years later.”

Bercaw lie on his bed and focused on these feelings. Soon, sensory input began swimming through his head.

“The first result was the sound of a diesel engine being gunned, followed by a very vivid scene,” he said. “In that scene, the sound of the diesel engine was coming from a truck on the road in front of me which was driving past. It was an old type of truck, olive green, which was used to transport troops and supplies.”

Gunfire and artillery-damaged palm trees dotted a land of sand around the military truck, a column of black smoke rose from the horizon. From Bercaw’s perspective, he stood in a line of soldiers dressed in khaki shorts, shirts, and doughboy helmets. Looking down at his hands, he held a carbine with a wooden stock.

But his focus was on his immediate superior.

“In front of me was a guy, dressed the same way as the rest. He had a dirty face and was sweating,” Bercaw said. “He had chiseled features and was shouting at me. I don’t know exactly what he was saying because I was tuning him out, but I do recall him saying something about how worthless I was. He also had a strong British accent.”

Trucks rolled past as the officer berated the soldiers, kicking up clouds of dust and sand that Bercaw tasted.

Then the past-life event was over.

“That was all,” he said. “Afterwards, that feeling (thirst, heat, sweat) has never bothered me again.”

Thoughts, memories of a past life as a British soldier during the bloodiest conflict on our planet, haunted Bercaw to the point he had to go there again.

“Having had some success with the technique, I cast about for some other negative emotions,” he said. “Another one that I came up with was the feeling of guilt whenever I saw a third party do something wrong or embarrassing. This was a completely irrational emotion, but one I suffered with through childhood and into young adulthood. It was a very strong emotion and in a sense, disabling.”

Over a number of days, Bercaw lie on his bed and remembered being in Italy during the war.

“What it recalled, overall, was that another guy and I were running up an enclosed stone spiral staircase,” he said. “It was wet with dampness or dew, and I kept slipping and was having trouble not falling. The other guy was running in front of me, and he was dressed in the same khaki shorts and shirt and doughboy helmet. I had my carbine in front of me again running up the stairs. I was in a blind panic.”

Bercaw’s WWII British self knew he ran toward someone about to be executed – and it was because of him.

“The spiral staircase went on forever it seemed, and my panic just kept rising,” he said. “Finally, we burst out onto a plaza. My partner was on my right, and directly in front of me, another British soldier was seated on a wood chair in the center of the plaza.”

The man on the chair had been tied down – he wore a black blindfold.

“In front and to our left was a firing squad made up of British soldiers,” Bercaw said. “As we reached the plaza and I opened my mouth to scream at the squad to stop, the order was given and the squad opened fire.”

The man’s body jerked as bullets tore through his torso. The chair rocked backward from the impact and dumped the body onto the stone plaza.

“The feeling of horror and guilt was overwhelming,” Bercaw said. “To my shame, I said nothing, which compounded my guilt. That was the end of what I saw.”

Bercaw wants to know the identity of his WWII self.

“I was curious as to who this British soldier might have been, whether I could trace back to see if any of this was real, and what British military executions took place during the North Africa and Italy campaigns,” he said.

Bercaw has tried to discover who this person may have been. He thinks the man’s name was George James Miller, but has found no proof.

“To date, I haven’t been able to trace back to see if there was a George Miller in the British Army who soldiered through North Africa, Sicily and Italy,” he said. “At any rate, George didn’t seem too keen on soldiering and, as I was born nine years after the war, apparently he didn’t make it out of the situation.”

Much later, during a high school trip, Bercaw’s son traveled to Italy and came home with more than either expected.

“He brought back pictures of the monastery which I had been in,” Bercaw said. “Looking at the pictures, I could visualize the location in the monastery where he was when he took the pictures.”

*After more than 20 years, Bercaw did not remember the title of the book.

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters,” is available at Jason’s blog,

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Encounter With a Golem

A cool, crisp breeze, the remnant of a summer storm that had blown through Hot Springs, Ark., earlier in the evening, chilled this summer night in 1970.

Roger Shuffield, now from Azle, Texas, and friends Bob and Terry, pulled into the parking lot behind the Hot Springs Boys’ Club that overlooked a complex of four baseball fields used for Little League and softball games. The fields sat lower than the lot, so when these college sophomores on summer break stepped out of the Bob’s car, the entire complex spread out before them.

“I went with two friends to the parking lot for a few hours of wine and chilling out,” Roger said. “Having grown up there, and having worked there one summer, I knew it to be a perfect spot for wasting an evening with friends.”

The boys reached the parking lot around 7 p.m. and spent the next two hours drinking cheap wine and smoking cigarettes on the hood of Bob’s car.

“It was still daylight and we hardly noticed the transition from day to night as we joked and carried on, only moving from the hood of the car to answer nature’s call,” Roger said.

At 9 p.m., the boys, staring out at the Hot Springs city lights, decided it was time to leave.

“We basically spent the evening in random conversation,” Roger said. “The entire time was as mundane as any evening when friends get together.”

That changed quickly.

“When we decided to leave the place, we all got into the car and we passed the rear security light, one of those lights that seem to make everything appear a lavender color,” Roger said.

At that light, Roger and Terry talked Bob into stopping the car for a bathroom break before they left the parking lot.

“The two of us got out and walked the few feet to the south wall of the building,” Roger said, the night now complete, the boys backlit by the security light.

“We stood a few feet apart and watered the wall and pretty much finished at the same time,” Roger said. “As I turned around to face the direction of the trail, which crested the driveway from below near a 15-foot lone pine tree next to the light, suddenly a very large form rose from the lower fields coming up, not as if walking or stepping, but more like floating up from below.”

Roger froze.

“This thing looked like someone had concreted a very, very large man in a diving suit,” he said. “Bell helmet and all, and contoured the head into the shoulders as if there were no neck, no facial features, only smooth gray, but lavender tinted from the guard light.”

The creature stopped; Roger felt because it noticed he and Terry standing at the top of the hill.

“It appeared that I was only looking at the thing from the waist up,” Roger said. “It was almost a third as tall as the 15-foot tree next to the trail and at least three feet across at the shoulders. The thing appeared to be potentially some 10 feet tall.”

Roger shot a glance toward Terry. Terry looked back at him, eyes wide, and the boys knew they were seeing the same creature. This snapped them out of their shock and they ran for Bob’s car.

“He hadn’t seen a thing,” Roger said about Bob. “We drove away and never looked back; and lived to regret it.”

For the past forty years, Roger and Terry have discussed what they’d seen, and still don’t know what the hulking, concrete-like figure could have been.

“We’ll never know what that thing was,” Roger said. “The only description I’ve had for it all these years is Golem, a mud man. Because that’s exactly what it looked like, an enormous clay-like figure rising up from the dark before us. Featureless, massive and unlike anything I’ve ever seen since that night.”

From European tradition, the Golem is a giant humanoid molded from clay and animated by magic.

“Occasionally, I see drawings made by those who have been abducted (by extraterrestrials) or have had close encounters of some kind and ever so rarely I’ll see something akin to what we saw that night at the Hot Springs Boys’ Club,” he said. “If anyone can shed any light on this, feel free to comment.”

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters,” is available at Jason’s blog,